Studio Dragon / Netflix (2023)
Youth Romance, Based On Webtoon, Episodes: 9

Grade: A
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)

At only nine episodes of less than an hour long each, I was able to finish up this bittersweet romantic Korean drama Doona! (2023) in only two days. It was very addictive, too, so it seemed to go even faster than many other K-dramas made today which usually stretch out to sixteen episodes. With attractive leads Bae Suzy (Dream High, Gu Family Book, While You Were Sleeping) and Yang Se Jong (Saimdang, My Country: The New Age), and a very capable and interesting supporting cast, including one of my top favorite actors Lee Jin Wook (Nine: Nine Time Travels, Alone In Love, Air City, Goodbye Mr. Black, Return), my interest in the story never dragged or wavered. There was no risk for me of being tempted to fast forward through any scenes. I enjoyed every moment of the story. Writing by Min Song Ah flowed pretty smoothly, and the cinematography was beautiful, the OST gentle and winsome. The overall theme of a non-celebrity falling in love with a celebrity (and vice versa!) was often quite thought-provoking: can two people who are quite different in backgrounds and talents and personalities form a perfect union, or is it doomed to failure? The drama carries a sympathetic touch, causing the audience to reflect on and feel the warmth of a sometimes melancholy union of opposites attracted to one another. I particularly enjoyed watching handsome lead Yang Se Jong's beautifully expressive face. The camera just loved him.

The Story:

Warmhearted university student Lee Won Jun (Yang Se Jong) is a wiz at math but in his personal relationships he sometimes struggles. He has much compassion for people, even when he fails to understand what makes them "tick". To save money while finishing up college he lives in an older "share house" outside of Seoul, but is soon caught up in an odd, choppy relationship with another renter there, a reclusive girl named Lee Doona (Suzy). He wonders why she seems so lonely, why she doesn't seem to either work or go to school, and why she's a chain smoker when no one else he knows smokes cigarettes (at least she mostly does it outside!). She keeps to herself and rarely talks to anyone else in the share house, including other male renters, funny Seo Yun Taek (Kim Min Ho, Moonshine) and cutie pie shy Koo Jung Hoon (Kim Do Wan, She Knows Everything).

Turns out Doona had been a lead female singer and dancer in a wildly popular girl idol group called Dream Sweet but she had abruptly left that career due to a nervous breakdown rendering her unable to sing. It is strongly hinted that she had been traumatized by a relationship breakup with the manager of the idol group named Park In Wook (Lee Jin Wook) who really only sees her as a talent to exploit, and not as a person to love. It also seems she had developed her smoking habit from him. Doona had been raised in the countryside by a neglectful Mom (Kim Sun Young, Crash Landing On You) and she grows up looking for love in the wrong places. When Won Jun arrives to the share house she soon develops an interest in him. His kindness touches her heart, and he's very patient with her (even with her annoying smoking habit!). They grow closer pretty quickly.

However, Won Jun still has unresolved affectionate feelings for a girl he went to high school with named Kim Jin Ju (Ha Young, beautiful performance here from this young actress who had appeared in dramas Fix You and Now We Are Breaking Up). She suddenly re-enters his life in a twist of fate, they end up working together part-time in the same coffee cafe, and so he begins to feel torn between his old high school "soulmate" and his curiosity and interest in the troubled Doona. Will his compassionate nature lead him to gravitate more to Doona when it's obvious he would have a far more normal life if he chose to commit to his former high school sweetheart?

To make matters even stranger, when Doona and Jin Ju meet they hit it off as friends, even though they both like Won Jun! Then both girls also strike up a friendship with a funny girl named Choi I Ra (Park Se Wan, who played a memorable ghost in Goblin, and one of the students in The Red Teacher) who ends up moving into the share house and flirting outrageously with cutie pie shy Koo Jung Hoon, who doesn't know quite how to relate to her (at first!).

Then the share house gang and their mutual friends even take a trip together into the country and get to know each other even better that way. All this togetherness seems to improve Doona's mood and mental state; she even cuts back on the smoking and finds she can sing again. When her former manager asks her to return to the idol group she quickly agrees. However, there's a catch: she is told that if she will return to the idol group she needs to give up any romantic relationships with men for two years! The reasoning being that If fans knew she had a boyfriend in real life that that would jeopardize her popularity. Aigoo!


By this time Won Jun is deeply in love with Doona, even though his high school sweetheart finally confesses her love for him. How will Won Jun deal with all the stresses of his love life, while at the same time graduating from college and finding his first important career job? Would Doona be able to give up her well paid job as an idol singer for the sake of true love and a quiet life with Won Jun? Or will he end up being "second fiddle" to her professional ambitions? Wouldn't it be too selfish to abandon him for her own career after he was instrumental in helping her heal from her former depression? Life certainly can take unexpected turns!

Be aware that the real ending for this drama is at the beginning of the last episode 9, not at the end of episode 9. (Sometimes K-drama writers like to trick you). :)

If you delight in unusual romances, like I do, then definitely check out the wonderful Doona! All the actors knocked it out of the ballpark. I will definitely re-watch it again sometime. I hope it stays on Netflix for a long time to come.